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Malkin "full go" for Game 1

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pens superstar center Evgeni Malkin will be back when the puck drops for Game 1 of their First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday at PPG Paints Arena. 

"(Malkin) will be in the lineup and full go," head coach Mike Sullivan said.

Malkin, who missed the last 13 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, took part in full-contact practice on Tuesday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

Malkin's major issue with the injury was shooting the puck. He previously experienced pain in his shoulder while shooting, but tested out shots at practice and feels better.

"I tried everything today," Malkin said. "Slap shots, wrist shots, one-timers, all three shots I feel so much better."

Malkin took part in every facet of practice, joining in line rushes with Bryan Rust and Phil Kessel, working on the top power-play unit and engaging in full contact.

"'Geno' is one of the best players in the world. Whenever he is in the lineup we're a better team," Kessel said. "He's special. You watch what he does. He's a top-tier player and he'll be ready to go tomorrow night."

Malkin suffered the injury after blocking a shot by Michael Ferland against Calgary on March 13. He played two days later against Philadelphia, but the team decided after that point it was best to hold him out of the lineup until the injury healed.

Malkin has been skating lately, even joining his teammates in practice since last Thursday. His conditioning will be the biggest test come playoff time.

"The biggest challenge is my legs," Malkin said. "The first couple of shifts will be hard. I need to keep going. I know they're coming. Take a couple hits and be ready. I'll keep moving my legs and play my game."

Malkin missed the last 15 games of the 2015-16 regular season and the first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He still managed to return at a high level of play and the Pens expect the same this year.

"I think he's played a fair amount of games this year. We're not overly concerned that he has to knock the rust off, so to speak," Sullivan said last week. "We feel pretty strongly that he can step right in and be an impact player for us."

Malkin is taking a cautious approach in his return.

"Three weeks is a long time. The first game I'll try to do my best," Malkin said. "It's not easy. What can you do? Just play. I'll play the first shift and after just keep going. I'll play my game. Control the puck, take a couple hits and be ready to play."

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